4 Ways Pen & Paper Can Kick Start Your Writing Process

The Pilot G2 Gel Ink Pens and Moleskin notebooks are my all-time favorites.

I’m old fashioned when it comes to writing — I start everything on pen and paper, whether it’s a blog post, press release or article. My coworkers discovered this tendency of mine about a couple weeks ago, and they were appalled. I think I can almost hear your surprised interjections now.

But honestly, writing with a pen and paper gives me a better push than starting out cold on the computer. In fact, some people believe pen and paper are the “most underrated creativity and productivity tools,” and  I couldn’t agree more. As much as you might hate writing by hand, you may want to consider trying it. Here are four ways “old-fashioned” pen and paper can kick start your writing process in our digital age:

  • Less  distractions. If you write your first draft by hand, you’re less likely to become distracted by your email alerts, breaking news or friends’ updates on social networks. After all, the pen, piece of paper and hard surface on which you’re writing will be the only things in sight. Unless you for some reason get distracted by flaws in wood grain (which I hope is unlikely), you’ll really be able to hone in on the task at hand.
  • Quicker progress. Let’s face it, filling up a page on Microsoft Word is 10 times tougher than filling up a sheet of lined paper by hand. In an hour, you might fill up just one page on Word. So instead of feeling like you’re making zero progress, make it easier on yourself — you’ll feel like you’re making quicker progress after you’ve filled up three sheets of lined paper in just one hour.
  • Lower pressure. I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly critical of my writing when it’s in an electronic form. When I write on pen and paper, it’s a different story. I allow myself to write sentences and phrasing that aren’t necessarily up to par, which helps me get into a groove without frequent pauses  and self-interruptions. Sometimes it really is best to leave the nitpicking out of the first draft phase.
  • A hard record. When writing in Word, you delete entire sentences and phrasing with no record of how they were written them previously. It’s different when writing by hand — if you strongly dislike how you’re not a fan of how you wrote a sentence or phrase the first time, a simple strikethrough will fix that. You’ll still be able to read the original phrasing, in case you want to revert to it. (It’s always great to have options!)

After you’ve finished writing your first draft by hand, it’s smooth sailing. It won’t take much time to transfer your writing to the computer, and from there, you can go through rounds of revisions. The important thing is that you’ll have the hardest step — the first draft — out of the way.

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts. Why do or don’t you use pen and paper as part of your writing process? Leave a comment on what works best for you, or answer the poll to weigh in!

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12 thoughts on “4 Ways Pen & Paper Can Kick Start Your Writing Process

    • Desiree Mahr says:

      Mostak — Thanks for your comment! And you’re right, it’s always worth a try. Good luck! I hope it works as well for you as it does for me.

  1. Norman J Perez (@normanperez) says:

    For me, I prefer to start my first drafts on the computer because it’s cleaner and causes less pressure. If I try to write a draft on paper I end up with a page where half it is an ink stain because of all the strikethroughs and the other half is a disconnected mess of sentences that I can’t understand. On the other hand when I write on the computer, I can manage the content more easily plus it’s more visually clean for me. As for distractions, I try to kill all my notifications when writing and have all the research I need already in hand so I don’t go to the internet..

    Personally, it’s all a matter of what works for you. I can understand how distractions affect some individuals more than others or how writing in one medium is less tense than another. It’s a matter of finding the right methods and not being stuck in one out of habit.

    • Desiree Mahr says:

      Hi Norman — That’s very true, it is all about what works for you. The next time I give a first draft a shot on the computer, I’ll take your advice about having the research in hand and killing all email and social media notifications. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  2. fxgarden says:

    Nice article Desiree, this has some nice parallels with paper prototyping in design, the idea being that if someone is working with a sketch or shown shown something in sketch form then it feels easier the criticize and edit rapidly, especially when collaborating. If something looks more polished then people feel more resistant to make changes and place to much value on something that shouldn’t be treated as such. Definitely have tried to spend more time sketching and writing with pen and paper than I ever use to, and I find that as you suggest it is somewhat refreshing to be less distracted and more focused on the task at hand. I also like the ability to jump around and add notes and comments where I chose rather than reformatting digital content because an app forces me to. Thanks for the post, nice to see another persons perspective on moving away from technology.

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